AAA Monday: d’Arnaud Homers. Still Waiting on BabyBuck

AAA: New Orleans Zephyrs (MIA) 12, @ Las Vegas 51s 9 

Travis d'ArnaudThe Las Vegas homeruns:
C Travis d’Arnaud, CF-LF Brian Bixler and PH-CF Matt den Dekker.

d’Arnaud was 3-for-5 to lift his overall AAA line to  .327/.485/.612 .295/.475/.523 with 10 extra-base hits and an absurd 16 BB/9 K in 16 games. Since his promotion to AAA, on August 9, he’s hit safely in each of his four games with four extra-base hits, four walks and one strikeout. Once d’Arnaud comes up for #BabyBuck will he go back down to AAA again? That’s the plan (I thought), but what’s the point of bringing him up for a week, and then sending him to AAA for a two weeks to play Buck and then bringing d’Arnaud back when rosters expand on September 1 to play nearly everyday or split time?

den Dekker, who turned 26 last week, is hitting a very solid .295/.360/.500 for the 51s in 38 games.  He’s cut down on the strikeouts some from extreme to merely high: he’s fanned in 25.7% of his AAA at-bats this year, suggesting that he will have big time trouble hitting for average in the big leagues.

Lucas Duda (.235/.353/.438 – 68 gms in AAA) played first base for the fifth straight night.

Giancarlo Alvarado (2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) was hit hard and so was LHP Jack Leathersich (2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K).

Leathersich’s bad night cost him .76 points of ERA. In 23.1 innings in AAA, he’s struck out 40 (35%) and walked 21 (18%). That’s not going to work. He needs to get a few more outs in the strike zone.

Sunday in Triple-A: Jacob deGrom Tosses Six Solid Innings in 51s Loss

Robert Brender, @robertbrender on Twitter

Salt Lake Bees (LAA) 6, @ Las Vegas 51s 3

RHP Jacob deGrom (pictured) made his second start for Las Vegas since being called up from Binghamton June 17, and he was fantastic. The FloridaDeGrom With Cast native shutout Salt Lake for six innings but was not involved in the decision after the bullpen blew the lead, with an assist from the 51s defense. Thanks to four runs in the 8th inning, the Bees came from behind to beat the 51s 6-3 at Cashman Field.

Pitching line for deGrom: 6IP, 3H, 0R, 0ER, 4BB, 7K. He threw 98 pitches (60 strikes). In 11.2 innings since his promotion, deGrom has limited his two opponents to one run with 10 strikeouts. It’s a remarkable improvement, considering he was 2-5 with a 4.80 era in 10 starts with Binghamton. The main concern is his control; 28 walks in 83.2IP at both levels this season (6BB in 11.2IP at AAA).

With Vegas ahead 2-1 in the top of the 8th inning, left-hander Sean Henn (1-3) was summonsed from Wally Backman’s bullpen. Henn had limited opponents to one earned run in his previous nine appearances, but Sunday provided very different results. The lefty started the frame by walking the leadoff man, Andrew Romine. He than attempted to pick Romine off at first base and threw the ball beyond the reach of Rylan Sandoval covering, allowing Romine to go all the way to 3rd. One uneventful out later, Kole Calhoun tripled home Romine tying the game.

With two out in the innings, 3b Eric Campbell made an errant throw to first on a groundball that would have ended the inning. Instead, the error allowed the go-ahead run to score for the Bees. Henn was relieved by Greg Peavey, who promptly gave up a two-run homer to the first batter he faced making it 5-2 Salt Lake. Sandoval homered for the 51s in the bottom of the inning, but Salt Lake got the run back in the top of the 9th and went on to win 6-3.

Wilmer Flores continues to rake for Vegas, going 2 for 4 Sunday, in the process extending his hitting streak to five games. He’s also hit safely in eight of his last nine starts with 12 hits in 38 at-bats over that span.

Notes: Ike Davis got the day off Sunday after making 11 straight starts in AAA….Mike Baxter was 0 for 5 and is now hitting .208 since his demotion….With Lutz, Brown and Satin all in the big leagues, Francisco Pena hit cleanup and was the DH Sunday….Vegas is now 39-36 this season.

51s Rolling Despite Roster Limitations

Robert Brender, @robertbrender on Twitter

The Las Vegas 51s prepare to open a51s Logo four game series in Tacoma Thursday night with a 31-26 overall record, one game behind Tucson and Sacramento for 1st place in the PCL Pacific Southern Division. They’re in the midst of their best winning streak of the season, having reeled off seven straight, including sweeping a four game, wrap-around series in Fresno early this week. They’ve also won nine of their last 10. What makes the 51s recent quality of play so surprising is the roster, especially on offense, has been stripped of quality due to injuries and call-ups.

Outfielder Andrew Brown (.371/.442/.655) was forced to the disabled list May 20 with a strained oblique while leading the team in most offensive categories. Despite being gone for 24 days, he still leads the squad in triples, BA, SLG, OBP and OPS and his 32 rbi are second on the team behind Wilmer Flores’s 39.

Zach Lutz, who was playing his best ball of the season in May, landed on the DL May 28, also with the dreaded oblique strain. The PA native, who celebrated his 27th birthday June 3, had hit safely in eight of his previous nine games before leaving the ballgame May 26 against Salt Lake after one at-bat with discomfort on his side. Thanks to a red-hot May with the lumber, Lutz improved his average to .277/.360/.419 overall with 4 homers and 26 driven in. Before they were injured, both Brown and Lutz were serious contenders for big league promotion with Ike Davis slipping toward a trip to Sin City. In fact, it’s conceivable if Mets brass had the option of promoting Brown or Lutz at the end of last month, Davis wouldn’t have been given as much time to work out of his slump.

Shortstop Omar Quintanilla was given his shot to join the Mets May 30 after Ruben Tejada wound up on the DL with a quad strain. The Texan was putting together his best hitting streak of the season in Vegas and might have been given a ticket to New York even if Tejada didn’t get hurt. Before his call up, Quintanilla had a knock in nine consecutive games, raising his average to a season-best .333/.419/.484.

To a lesser extent, the losses of catcher Juan Centeno to the DL May 18 (returned May 28) and utility player Reese Havens May 30 have made depth an issue for Wally Backman. Havens might have lost a chance to get more playing time after collecting  97 at-bats so far this year, most off the bench. Centeno became the starting AAA catcher after Travis d’Arnaud broke his foot in mid April. d’Arnaud is the Mets top position prospect and was expected to contribute heavily to the middle of the Vegas lineup before he would ultimately wind up in Queens. After Centeno was lost to injury, Francisco Pena was called up from the B-Mets and stabilized the catching position (.302/.333/.628).

Probably the most challenging issue facing the 51s coaching staff on a regular basis has been consistently terrible pitching. While Zack Wheeler’s era stands at 3.86, the rest of the Vegas starters own a 5.61 era. It looks even uglier if you remove Collin McHugh’s 2.74 in eight starts before he was called to the big leagues May 14. Right-hander Rafael Montero had a solid spot start May 21 in Iowa, creating some hope he would be added to the rotation permanently. However, that didn’t happen and he’s been in Binghamton ever since. The bullpen hasn’t been any better than the starters, surrendering 110 runs and 220 hits in 193 innings.

So, despite all the problems, what’s the reason for the recent success: Well, 51s hurlers have been better lately, to the tune of a 2.86 era in the last 10 games. Right-hander Carlos Torres has won each of his last four starts since May 18, including a complete game shutout June 3 at Fresno. Despite walking the house, D.J. Mitchell threw six scoreless innings May 31 against Reno at Cashman Field for his longest outing of the season. Recently signed RHP Matt Fox has limited opponents to three or fewer runs in each of his four starts with Vegas. And, new closer David Aardsma has three saves, allowing just one run in seven outings.

The offense is being carried the last two weeks by Wilmer Flores and Josh Satin (.311/.423/.500) but getting lots of assistance from Kirk Nieuwenhuis and unlikely contributors like Jamie Hoffmann and Brian Bixler. In his last 17 games, Nieuwenhuis is hitting .258/ .388/ .636 with 8 HR (seven in the last 12 games) and 14 BB. In the last 19 games, Flores is hitting .347/ .372/ .520 with 8 2B, 1 3B and 1 homer. The 51s are posting 5.42 runs per game over the course of their seven game winning streak.

After losing seven of 10 games from May 13-23 with many of their best players active, it’s surprising to see such a dramatic turn-around considering how limited the roster currently is.

Upper Minors Saturday: Zack Wheeler Strong in AAA; Rafael Montero Dominant in AA

AAA: Las Vegas 51s 2, Fresno Grizzlies (SF) 1 

Wheeler Vegas HeadRHP Zack Wheeler put together his first quality start in his three tries since his return from a right shoulder strain. His line: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. He threw 65% of his pitches for strikes. Wheeler’s line in his last three starts: 15 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 7 ER, 4 HR, 6 BB, 12 K. He’s getting closer, and the Super Two deadline is getting close and the Mets have need in their rotation. However, given that he gave up two homers in each of his last two starts before Saturday, I still think he’ll get a few – like three – more starts for Vegas.

CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis homered again, his eighth in 31 games in AAA. He’s gotten hot in a big way: in his last 11 games, he’s hit .293/.431/.756 with one double and six homers, 10 walks and 10 strikeouts.

A night after getting plunked Friday, 2B Wilmer Flores did not play Saturday.


AA: Binghamton Mets 6, @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR) 0  

Ho-hum, seven more shutout innings for Rafael Montero. His line: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K and 69% strikes (70 of 102). In his two starts back in AA since a solid sport start in AAA, he’s done this: 13 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 12 K. That’s a pretty good way to earn a more lasting assignment to AAA.

2B Danny Muno, snapped a 24-at-bat hitless skid with a three-hit night, including a homer. The 24-year-old is hitting .210/.353/.324 in his first 52 games in AA.

After one homer in the month of May, RF/LF Cory Vaughn equaled that in his first game in June by going 3-for-5 with a double and a homer, his sixth of 2013. Vaughn finished May at .280/.344/.354 with three doubles and one homer and is now hitting .295/.374/.458 just past his 24th birthday.

Upper Levels Friday: No Hits Here

AAA: Tacoma Rainiers (SEA) 10, @ Las Vegas 51s 1 

Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Carlos Torres: 5 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis doubled in four trips.

Darin Gorski made his first relief appearance after running a 7.11 ERA with 17 hits, 8 walks and 7 strikeouts as a starter. He hit a batter and walked on in his first try as a reliever. I see very little value in Gorski as a reliever.


AA: Akron Aeroes (CLE) 4, @ Binghamton Mets 0 

The Mets’ AAA team had four hits, the AA team had five.

According the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, J.P. Ricciardi “was on had to watch B-Mets ace Rafael Montero….”
Montero’s line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K with 69% of his pitches (63 of 92) for strikes.
LHP Jack Leathersich had a messy ninth with a couple of hits and an intentional walk, but three strikeouts. He’s fanned 18 in 11 innings, and walked nine. I’m a little bit surprised he’s striking out 38% of the batters he’s faced in AA.

Upper Levels Sunday: PCL Offense in the PCL and the EL; A Big Day for Alonzo Harris

AAA: @ Colorado Springs Sky Sox (COL) 8, Las Vegas 51s 7

The Sox scored twice in the bottom of the ninth against the combination of Greg Peavey and recently acquired Sean Henn, neither of whom recorded an out. Peavey allowed a pair of singles to start the inning, Penn walked the bases loaded and then allowed the game-winning single to LF Tyler Colvin.

The two teams combined on 15 runs, 32 hits (!) all in a brisk 3:33. So add this to the “Yay, PCL!” column.

Jamie Hoffman, a Terry Collins’ favorite, had the best offensive day for Vegas, going 2-for-4 with a double and 3 RBI. The 28-year-old is hitting .289/.319/.467 in 13 games with two walks and 10 whiffs.

CF Juan Lagares was 1-for-5 with a homer, his third of 2013 to push his season line to .346/.378/.551 and threw out a runner at the plate. If the Mets decide they need a right-handed hitting outfielder, Lagares and Hoffman are the top two internal choices. Lagares holds a number of advantages: he’s younger, on the 40-man roster and better defensively. Still, I suspect the Mets would like to see the 24-year-old Lagares, who has always been an aggressive hitter become more selective at the plate as his walk rate sits at 4.8% right now.

Collin McHugh was PCL’ed: 5.1 IP, 13 H, 4 R 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. He threw 71% of his pitches for strikes (63 of 89). Seven of the 13 hits he allowed were ground balls and 12 of the 13 were singles. In 23.1 innings thus far, he’s fanned 18 and walked only four.


AA: Binghamton Mets 15, @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR) 2 

Hey, look a PCL game broke out in the Granite State.

Harris B-Mets HeadLF Alonzo Harris had a monster day: 4-5, BB, 2 R, 2 RBI, 3 SB. The 24-year-old is now sitting at .286/.315/.386 while going six-for-eight stealing bases in the season’s first 16 games.

RF Cory Vaughn was 3-for-6 with three singles to push his season line to .298/.365/.526 in 15 games. For what it’s worth, he’s 7-for-15 (.467) against lefties with a triple and a homer, while hitting .238 (10-for-42) with four extra-base hits against rights. SSS and all, but extreme platoon splits have been a theme for Vaughn in the last few years.

Big C Blake Forsythe was 1-for-3 with a double. Playing in a little under half of the team’s games, he’s off to a 8-for-22 start (.364) with five extra-base hits for a .727 slugging percentage. There’s certainly power in his strong frame, but I wasn’t sure that there was enough of everything else.  He will get more playing time to prove it with Juan Centeno in AAA.

Breaking: Las Vegas is Tough for Pitcher Development

Cashman Field (Brender)

- Ted Berg at USA Today has a wonderful in-depth look at how difficult Las Vegas is for player development thanks to its offensive friendly ways.

A few great quotes:

“Breaking balls don’t break that well,” 51s manager Wally Backman says. “Guys come in who are supposed to have good breaking balls, and the breaking ball isn’t doing much. The high altitude has an effect on all that stuff.”

J.P. Ricciardi, who had Las Vegas as the team’s AAA affiliate when he was with the Blue Jays addressed adjusting a pitchers’ stats.

You’re not going to come out of there with a 2.70 or a 3.10, 3.20 ERA. You’re probably going to have to add a run a game,” he says. “But it still comes down to if you’re executing. If you’re making your pitches and you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, that’s how you’re going to be evaluated.

- And to make things worse, it’s been windy in Vegas recently and the 51s are doing what they can to adjust writes Paul Delos Santos in the Las Vegas Sun. According to 51s manager Wally Backman: “The last seven home runs that were hit here for the last two or three days, six of them were just pop-ups on a normal day.”

AAA Monday: Ooof, PCL. Travis d’Arnaud has a TTO Night

AAA: Colorado Springs Sky Sox (COL) 19, @ Las Vegas 51s 5 

d'arnaud Vegas HeadThe wind was blowing out at Cashman Field and the two teams combined on 24 runs, 28 hits, four homers and 15 walks in an action-packed 3:24. The 51s also committed six errors. PCL Baseball!

Chris Schwinden started and wore a whole bunch of that damage – yielding eight runs, four earned including two homers in 3.2 innings. Adam Kolarek, recently promoted from AA Binghamton had a rough one as well: 2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR. The 51s ended the game with position player Eric Campbell on the hill – he too gave up four runs in an inning.

The good news for Vegas came mostly at the plate. C Travis d’Anaud  (pictured) had five plate appearances: all ended with one of the three true outcomes: with one homer, one strikeout and three walks. The homerun was his first of 2013, the walks were his 10th, 11th and 12th to push his line to .300/.488/.567 in 10 games for the 24-year old.

Wilmer Flores was 3-for-5 with a strikeout while playing thirdbase for the first time after nine games at second base. The 21-year old is hitting .289/.346/.378 in his 12 contests five walks and just three whiffs. He did commit an error, his third of the year.

CF Juan Lagares was 2-for-5 with a triple and two RBI at the top of the order to extend his hitting streak to eight games. In 11 games, he’s hitting a batting average-heavy .346/.370/.519 with four extra-base hits.

Flores playing third for a night opened up second for Reese Havens (.276/.333/.310 – 10 games), who was 0-for-5.

AAA Friday: A Classic PCL Slugfest – Gorski Roughed Up; d’Arnaud & Flores Hit

Once again Robert Brender contributes this from Vegas.

Poor starting pitching put the Las Vegas 51s in a hole they couldn’t dig out of, falling for the 2nd straight night to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox 11-6 in front of 5,848 at Cashman Field.

Tonight, Darin Gorski (0-1) was the victim of the hot-hitting Sox, surrendering five runs (all earned) in just two innings, collecting the loss. Gorski had difficulty with command, walking four in his brief outing and throwing 72 pitches, 38 for strikes (53%).

Gorski’s final line: 2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 0 K. Woof.

As they did Friday night, the Sky Sox (6-3) sent all nine batters to the plate in the opening inning, scoring three times. Back to back doubles from Nolan Arenado and Ryan Wheeler started a run of five consecutive batters to reach in the frame. Nine of the Sky Sox 17 hits went for extra bases.

The Las Vegas bats made a charge in the middle innings, scoring all six runs between the 3rd and 5th. Travis d”Arnaud and Wilmer Flores had two doubles each in the game. d’Arnaud crushed a pair of line drives off the 20’ high wall in left field, coming just a few feet shy of homeruns each time. He drove in two runs on the night and now has six runs batted in this season.

Josh Satin continued his red-hot start, going 2 for 3 with 3 RBI, including a long 2-run homerun in the 5th inning off Colorado Springs starter Drew Pomeranz. Satin has now hit safely in nine of 10 games this season and has a club leading 4 long-balls to go with 12 RBI.

Pomeranz (1-0) was the benefactor of great run support, collecting the win despite allowing six runs (all earned) in five innings.

Trailing 8-6 in the bottom of the 7th inning, the 51s (5-5) loaded the bases with nobody out against Sky Sox reliever Manuel Corpas. However, two shallow fly balls from Zach Lutz and pinch hitter Jamie Hoffmann followed by a Reese Havens strike out got Corpas out of the jam without surrendering a run. The 51s would not get any closer as Colorado Springs tacked on a single run in the 6th and three more in the 8th.

Six Las Vegas pitchers combined to allow 11 runs and 17 hits, the highest total for a 51s opponent in each category this season. Every starting position player for both teams reached base at least once.

Upper Levels Thursday: Vegas Blasts Grizzlies

AAA: Las Vegas 51s 14, Fresno Grizzlies 3

McHugh Vegas HeadAn efficient Vegas offense, helped by four (!) Fresno errors scored 12 runs in the first three innings on their way to a two touchdown performance.

Perhaps more important than the 51s’ hit parade was Collin McHugh’s performance. McHugh (pictured) allowed two unearned runs thanks to a Juan Lagares error, on four hits in seven innings, did not walk a batter and struck out five. In 12.1 innings over two starts, McHugh has allowed eight hits and a walk while fanning 12. Remember, the Mets are asking both Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Hefner to hold down starting spots. McHugh will get his shot to stick at the back of the Mets’ rotation soon enough.

Back to the offense. CF Juan Lagares was 3-for-6 with a leadoff homer in the top of the first to get the party started. LF Zach Lutz was 2-for-5 with a grand slam. Lagares has used four multi-hit games in a row to lift his seven0game average to .333 (11 H/33 AB). 1B Josh Satin was 2-for-3 with two doubles and a walk. With seven mutli-hit games in eight contests, Satin is hitting .500/.543/.906 (16-for-32).

C Travis d’Arnaud was 2-for-5 with two measly singles. By the way, he’s drawn seven walks in six games.


AA: New Hampshire Fisher Cats 3, @ Binghamton Mets 1

On a cold April night, the ‘Cats ruined the B-Mets’ home opener.

Logan Verrett: 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 1 WP. Amazin’ Avenue’s Jeffrey Paternostro braved the cold to report that Verrett was mostly working the high 80s, hit 90+ a “handful” and topped out at 92 and threw his slider a lot in the middle innings. That all sounds just about right. Verrett has fanned five of the 49 batters he has faced (10%) in his 13 innings this year. That’s not enough.

3B Josh Rodriguez had two of Binghamton’s three hits. LF Cory Vaughn off to a 3-for-22 start (.136) had the other.